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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Bad Tactics


Anthony McIntyre • 11 February 2007

That Sinn Fein has an authoritarian leadership is self evident. As the Irish Examiner stated the day after the party's policing ard fheis, "it's symptomatic of the complete command and hold that Adams has on republicanism that yesterday's vote was portrayed as a victory, as a breakthrough…" But it does not follow that authoritarianism necessarily leads to silly decisions as it did on this occasion.

It was a short sighted but grave strategic error for the former republican party to approve the policy shift on the British PSNI by such a huge majority at the end of a conference likened more to a procession than a debate. Delegate after delegate telling the leadership just how great it is hardly qualifies as a debate. Moreover, the absence of proper discussion manifested in the almost unanimous support for an endorsement of the PSNI, rather than the decision to support the PSNI per se, has handed the DUP a significant tactical advantage.

The displacement of a debating chamber by a sycophant convention was an ill-judged move that will ultimately undermine Sinn Fein's negotiating strength. The party decision to support the British PSNI may well mean that the ball has been tossed into the DUP court but the margin of victory will deprive Sinn Fein of any strategic advantage over the DUP that it would otherwise have secured. Paisley's party will be able to claim that the ball kicked by Sinn Fein has landed in a small court and the space in which to manoeuvre unlike Sinn Fein's is heavily constricted. Dissent, it will be said, is more widespread and exists at higher levels within the party than in Sinn Fein. The situational logic is such that, as a consequence, Adams' movement will be asked by the big government players to pony up again. It is the price a caudillo can expect to pay when he prioritises showing to the world just how loved a leader he is over any concerns he may have about ceding ground to an opponent.

Sinn Fein seems not to have learned from the Trimble experience. The then UUP leader used his internal weakness as a negotiating strength until such times as the Blair government heeded its NIO mandarins and decided that a deal was more doable if the DUP were to lead unionism. Because there were always critics biting at his heels of the UUP leader, the imperative to 'save Dave' concentrated the minds and consumed the time of the British government in particular. David Trimble could always point to a seemingly innocuous leadership contender such as Martin Smith making an effective challenge to his leadership. Trimble won the day by 57 to 43. Adams as a party leader never faced a challenge like that.

An insight into the way in which the British reckoned they could always calculate on the Sinn Fein leadership to deliver British state objectives at the end of the day came when a British ambassador said to a prominent Irish journalist at a function in Dublin that Adams and McGuinness could always push through what was necessary; they were Stalinists after all. Dean Godson's Trimble tome Himself Alone illustrates all very well how Sinn Fein could not comprehend the concept of internal resistance to the leadership within unionism. The Adams team forever badgered why Trimble couldn't just manage his base.

Sinn Fein has managed its base and managed it well, but only in so far as it has served internal management purposes. In the wider strategic arena the suffocation of grass roots autonomy may have freed the leadership from the constraints of its own base but it has left it a hostage to fortune. Unable in future negotiations to cite the circumscribing power of a critical base, Sinn Fein has room only to cede even more ground to a DUP able to channel the pressure generated from within its own ranks into a negotiating pincer designed to hold what it has and take what it has not. Whether it continues to insist on sackcloth and ashes or not, theocratic unionism stands poised, bible in hand, to smite those deemed to have sinned against its state.





































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

13 February 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Helen McClafferty

Martin Galvin

The Heart of Collusion
John Kennedy

Bad Tactics
Anthony McIntyre

The Clothes Make the Man
Mick Hall

Follow the Leader
John Kennedy

Dry Your Eyes
John Kennedy

The Foreman
Anthony McIntyre

Mc Cain and Northern Ireland
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Rumours of Retirement
Dr John Coulter

Liam O Ruairc

If MI5 rules, What was the 30-year war all about?
John Kelly

PRUC Service
Brian Mór

Nationalists Divided Over Sinn Fein Support for British Policing
Paul Mallon

Remember the B Specials?
Dr John Coulter

The Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

Coming Full Circle
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Need for an Anti-Imperialist United Front
Philip Ferguson

28 January 2007

Done & Dusted
Anthony McIntyre

Once Again, The Big Transition
Dolours Price

Plastic Bullet
John Kennedy

Provos Embrace Total Collaboration with British Rule
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

British Policing is Not an Alternative
Francis Mackey

$F Hats
Brian Mór

Policing Problems
Tommy McKearney

SF Seeks to Curtail NI Policing
David Adams

Digging Up the Truth
John Kennedy

State Terrorism Par Excellence
Anthony McIntyre

Collusion: Dirty War Crime
Mick Hall

Repeating the Pattern of the Top Brass
Eamonn McCann

Collusion revelations: disturbing but not shocking
Brendan O'Neill

England's Legacy to Ireland: State Sponsored Terrorism
Richard Wallace

Application for Service in HMPRUC
Brian Mór

The Revolution is the People
Michéal MháDonnáin

Rates and PFI Payments
Ray McAreavey

Reviews of 'Century'
Roy Johnston

A Peacemaker at the Start and the Finish
David Adams



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